The humble butter tart is a regional favourite that’s risen to the level of national delicacy. Combining brown sugar, syrup, eggs and (of course) butter, this simple treat with a gooey, semi-solid centre was born north of Toronto—the first recipe appeared in a cookbook published near Barrie in 1900. While this sweet little treat can inspire a sense of warmth on a cold autumn day, it can also ignite a certain amount of passion. Whether or not raisins should be included in the mix is a debate as hot as it is hopeless.
Spread across the Kawartha Lakes—a scenic region of forests, hills and shining waterways about two hours northeast of Toronto—this tour takes you across the heart of the province’s cottage country. Featuring some 50 spots in total, you can walk, bike and drive along four suggested routes—you can even take your boat as 19 spots sit along the Trent-Severn Waterway.
This restaurant and bar is located in the village of Bobcaygeon. After a long day on Kawartha Lakes, tie up at Lock 32 of the Trent-Severn Waterway and chow down on plain, raisin, pecan or a Gord Downie inspired Coffee Girl butter tart—maple and coffee filling with a coffee glaze.
Featured on the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here!, this café, located in a converted house downtown, bakes fresh tarts every day. It also serves one of the best meat loaf sandwiches you’ll ever try.
Set inside a Victorian home with a main-floor patio, this is the perfect place to come for brunch or daily high tea. Pair your butter tart, made by the husband-and-wife owners, with one of 40 varieties of loose-leaf teas.
Located on Peterborough’s Hunter Street—known as the “Café District” —you can grab dinner nearby, then walk here for dessert. Its maple syrup infused tart doesn’t disappoint.
This cluster of lakeside cottages and condos is set on the scenic shores of Deer Bay, a stretch of water off beautiful Buckhorn Lake. In addition to the tarts served up in its dining room, the resort sometimes offers butter tart baking classes.
This bakery has specialized in tarts for 20 years, with 10 varieties of butter tarts, and seven types of fruit tarts to choose from.
A collection of lovely stone buildings set in the rolling Northumberland hills, this spa features a gluten-free bakery (2). Get a massage before grabbing one of its light, flaky tarts.
This cozy shop in tiny Bailieboro bakes almost everything in-house daily and is a perennial winner at baking competitions—accolades include best in show at this year’s Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival. It offers four standard varieties (plain, pecan, walnut and raisin) and, on occasion, an adults-only version (infused with Irish cream and rum-soaked raisins).
This delicious self-guided tour winds through Wellington County and beyond, an area that has long been a hotbed of butter tart baking. It’s best to begin in the charming town of Mount Forest, a couple of hours northwest of Toronto. From there, you’ll roll into Ontario’s rural heartland, to tiny villages and sprawling farms, taking your pick from a total of about 40 businesses cooking up tarts (or tart-inspired items).
A hub for the local Mennonite community, here you can browse a variety of tarts baked (with raisins, and without) by bakers who arrive at the market via horse and buggy.
This cozy café, housed in a renovated, circa-1800 bank, serves up breakfast, all-day lunch and a nice variety of ice cream in the evening. Its three varieties of butter tarts—plain, raisin and a tropical twist, coconut—are supplied by Anna Mae’s Bakery in neaby Millbank.
A roadside restaurant set inside a red brick building, this is a popular local lunch spot. Grab some grub and end your meal with a decadent slice of butter tart pie, a super-sized version of this gooey treat.
Born as a roadside stand selling produce to help raise money for hospital visits for a family after their son was born prematurely, this weekend market now offers a wide variety of fresh, local veggies and meats, plus an excellent maple butter tart.
Located in the village of Neustadt, this bakery makes a mean butter tart (sometimes with raisins), as well as bespoke cupcakes—call ahead, and owner Jamie Callan will even cook up a butter tart cupcake.
The Best Butter Tarts in Toronto
The secret to this east end bakery’s tarts is, “a thinner crust, and no shortage of butter and brown sugar,” says owner Tracy O’Hara.
Locally sourced organic ingredients are the “minimum standard” at this café, and one of many reasons to try these butter tarts—Café Belong also goes with the no-raisin approach.
The Toronto bake shop ups the Canadian factor with its best-selling maple tarts, and switches the pâte sucrée for a flakier, and more buttery pastry.
These tarts boast the accolade of having travelled to four continents—some visitors to the city love them so much, they order a box to take home.
[This story appears in the October 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]